What Treatments Are Available For Breast Cancer?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be feeling overwhelmed. While a cancer diagnosis can be frightening, treatments for breast cancer are constantly evolving. Many treatments for different kinds and stages of breast cancer are available to patients.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells by preventing the cancer from growing and dividing so it can spread. The drugs are given on a specific cycle that may be once a week or only once every few weeks in some cases.

Some breast cancer patients undergo chemotherapy to shrink a tumor before they have surgery to remove it. Chemotherapy is also often given after surgical tumor removal to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses powerful levels of radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing and spreading. External-beam radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation treatment for breast cancer patients. The radiation comes from a machine outside the body and can include the whole breast or only parts of the breast where tumors are.

Like chemotherapy, radiation is often given before or after a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

Breast Cancer Surgery

Surgery to remove cancerous tumors is a very common treatment for breast cancer patients. In many cases, a surgeon can remove only the tumor itself and a small border of cancer-free tissue around it. In other cases, the surgeon needs to remove the entire breast. This kind of surgery is called a mastectomy, and many breast cancer patients opt for some form of breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.

Surgical treatments for breast cancer also often target the lymph nodes around the breast where cancer cells can be found. A surgeon may remove lymph nodes that get drainage from the breast.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is a breast cancer treatment used for certain types of breast cancer that use the hormones progesterone or estrogen to grow. Hormone treatments block these hormones so the cancer can't thrive. Additionally, this therapy is often administered for three to six months before surgery to help shrink the tumor and make surgery easier. Hormone treatments can also be given alongside chemotherapy.

Biological Therapy

Biological therapy, also called targeted therapy, is another treatment option that uses the body's own immune system or hormonal system to fight the cancer cells. One targeted therapy drug, trastuzumab, is the standard treatment for people with HER2-positive breast cancer. It may be used alone or with chemotherapy.

Side effects from biological therapy drugs typically generally aren't as intense as the side effects many people experience with chemotherapy.

Breast cancer treatments are highly individualized, and many people go through a combination of different treatment methods. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, discuss them with your oncologist. They can provide additional information regarding breast cancer treatment.